Spring Edito

May 4, 2015 | By French Culture

Dear Friends,

As the new Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States, it is a great pleasure to address this first seasonal note to you.

My objective here continues in the same vein as my predecessors: to bring France and the United States closer together through French and Francophone cultures and university partnerships.  Having spent much time working on issues related to Africa and the Middle East, I hope to also promote a rich and culturally diverse image of France, one that will expand through transatlantic intellectual exchanges and instill a spirit of mutual understanding in our countries. 

Our recent Night of Philosophy in New York– a 12-hour nocturnal marathon of philosophy lectures and artistic performances – inspired people of all ages to reflect on the most important questions of our time.  Films on the Green, our free French film festival in New York City parks, kicks off its 8th year on May 29 with a series devoted to the cultural diversity of the Mediterranean coast.  These initiatives illustrate the trajectory that we at the Cultural Services wish to trace: innovation, intellectual rigor, and a lively program that is free and open to all.

I hope to meet all of you at our events, and for now, I wish you an excellent spring.

Kindest Regards,
Bénédicte de Montlaur


Albertine Books
This spring 2015, Albertine will offer a series of events that focus on diversity.  Among many other subjects, we’ll be discussing French Art Deco with Olivier Gabet, graphic novels and the art of publishing with Jean-Christophe Menu, and the historic meeting of Proust and Joyce at the Majestic  with a play by Debbie Wiess.

The entire Albertine program is available here, and most events are live streamed and available for later viewing at any time online.

In other news, since the fall, Albertine’s website has offered a collection of over 1,000 titles in French and in translation, available for order and delivery to the entire United States.  This new dimension of Albertine offers another way of making French literary and intellectual life available to a wider audience. 

After a successful Night of Philosophy that brought together over 5,000 philosophy lovers, the Books Department is gearing up for the PEN World Voices Festival, May 4-9, which celebrates contemporary African literature this year.  Several francophone authors, including Jean-Christophe Rufin, Lola Lafon and Boubacar Boris Diop will be present, and for the first time part of the festival will take place at the French Embassy and in Albertine.

Visual and Performing Arts
In the coming months, a great number of events will celebrate the vitality of French drama in the United States: An American in Paris on Broadway, which marks the first French, American and British co-production in the history of musicals; the Pen World Voices Festival’s The Animal of Time by Valère Novarina; the Lyon Opera Ballet at the Joyce Theater; and the incredible Robot by Bianca Li at BAM.  The Cultural Services will also present two panel discussions: one will feature author Yorgos Loukos with several known choreographers, and the other, on June 4, will celebrate the publication « DANSE: A Catalogue by Noémie Solomon.  Both events serve to strengthen French-American exchange around dance.

On the visual art and design front, the New Museum Triennial (featuring Renaud Jerez and Antoine Catala), Central Park (with Tatiana Trouvé), and the Drawing Center (with Abdelkader Benchamma) are putting the limelight on French artists this season.  At the end of April, the Met Museum will present a commissioned installation by Pierre Huyghe, and in June, the Armory will reveal a major exhibition by Philippe Parreno.  Finally, in May, the Cultural Services will co-partner on the international design event, Wanted Design.

Film, TV and New Media
In the framework of the 2nd edition of the Art of The Real Lincoln Center series, several films by French directors (such as Alain Cavalier, Jean Eustache, and René Vautier) will be screened, and Agnès Varda will be honored with the « L’actualité d’Agnès Verda » retrospective.  Next, through May 4th, Lincoln Center will present a retrospective of the director Bertrand Bonello; De la guerre, Le Pornographe and Saint Laurent are all part of the program. 

For the 22nd New York African Film Festival, two French co-productions will be presented – Run (2014) by Philippe-Alain Lacôte and Orfeu Negro (1959) by Marcel Camus.

Finally, Films on the Green–the free outdoor French cinema festival in New York City parks–comes back for its 8th edition this summer, with screenings every Friday starting on May 29.  This year’s theme focuses on the colorful cultures of La Méditerranée

Over the coming months, many artists who were“Made in France” will be hitting stages in the U.S.  Notably, the talented  Benjamin Clémentine, Brodinski, The Dø, Rone, and Ibeyi will hold shows in May and June. As for classical music, the Quatuor Cambini Paris will play in Washington, D.C. on May 3rd.

In addition, for Indie Week 2015, the music department of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy is organizing networking and professional meetings with the support of Sacem.  This event provides an excellent opportunity for French editors and labels to develop and promote their artists on American soil. 

French Language Education
The "Adopt a School" initiative, launched in March in partnership with The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) and Education en Français à New York (EFNY), aims to support the spread of free, French bilingual education and calls all Permanent Missions or Consulates of French-speaking countries to “parrainer une école,” or sponsor a New York City public school that has a French-English dual language or serves French heritage language students. This assistance will provide the school with anything from cultural and literary events to financial support and book donations.

The 2014 report on French language usage established that there are 274 million French speakers worldwide, with 212 million using the language daily.  This massive number makes French bilingual education initiatives more important than ever.

Higher Education
Debating ideas is an ancient and prestigious academic discipline in the United States and an important element of inter-university competition.  The French Embassy’s Higher Education department, in partnership with George Washington University (Washington D.C.), presented the second edition of the Lafayette Debates—a public speaking competition among American universities—on April 18 and 19.

In anticipation of the December 2015 Conference of Parties in Paris, the competitions focused on an issue at the heart of negotiations: the relative obligations and responsibilities of states to combat climate change.  A group of highly capable students debated the subject “Resolved: That all states have an obligation to anticipate, prevent and minimize the causes of climate change, and mitigate its adverse effects.”

Following an exciting finale against the University of Toronto, the University of Michigan took first place, winning a trip to France during which the winners will meet members of the scientific and political community who will explain the stakes of the COP 21.